Thursday, September 13, 2007

Music and Music Visualization for the Masses - Classical style

I just finished reading Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson again. In one scene one of the many main characters, Lawrence Waterhouse, who loves math and organs, wants to take a crack at fixing the organ in the church to which his (hopefully) future wife belongs. They won't let him near the thing until he jumps up and starts playing Toccata and Fugue in D minor. He is such a genius that he transposes to C sharp minor on the fly, because that will sound better on that organ. Musicians will cower and whimper at the scariness of someone actually being able to do that. The author's description of the performance is humorous in itself, especially the part where Lawrence kicks off his shoes and starts playing pedal tones and low notes to shake the whole church. He pretty much blows the mind of the pastor, music director, and future fiance, and blows his own mind as he figures out a math problem that has been plaguing him and runs out of the church.

Unfortunately Catholic churches these days seem enamored of the piano and don't play even the electric organs they have anymore, let alone the real pipe organs in some of the older churches. I miss that "God has entered the room" sensation described above that you get when a good organist is playing a good organ and really pumping out the low notes. Almost any Bach organ piece is sufficient for that effect.

Thus, I was inspired to go search the web for some free performances of Toccata and Fugue in D minor, and was looking for a site that I remembered with videos for visualization of the notes of the music as they were played. The site is the Music Animation Machine and one of the most popular animations is in fact for Toccata and Fugue in D minor. See it embedded below, just click:

There is a ton of other great stuff at the site, the page with the list of music with videos is here. As regards Bach, I would say that I am more a fan of the fugues than I am of the toccatas, I suspect it is the rigor and repeats with variations in the fugues that I like so much. My favorite is the Little Fugue in G minor. Unfortunately the visualization (youtube link) is a midi piano and it really sounds best on the organ. A good version on the organ can be (paradoxically) found at the PianoSociety webpage (link to mp3, BWV 578 - Fugue in G minor ("Little Fugue")).

You could and should spend many days searching and listening to all the great free stuff at the Piano Society. Some of my favorites from the Piano Society are ...
  • Debussy Clair de Lune, (mp3 link Clair de lune). My mom wants me to finally learn this and play it for her at the nursing home someday. The Music Animation Machine visualization (youtube link) will blow your mind with all of those notes.
  • Mozart Piano Concerto No. 20 in D Minor, KV 466, Romanza (mp3 link Romanza). Possibly his most famous tune, made famous again in the movie Amadeus.
All of it is nice music to listen to while working or reading or even when doing nothing but listening.

No comments: